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Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass Hands-on Review from someone who plays it live and on recordings

Originally Posted: May 15, 2006… Still playing this magnificent beast today! The brassy phosphor-bronze strings make this bass sound like a million bucks. It’s a “go-to” recording bass (with mics).


Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass Review

Due to popular request and to help a little with the folks who want to hear the bass first-hand, I’ve uploaded another tune I recorded with my Dean EAB (the bass part). I still have the EAB (I go through lots of instruments), and I love it. This recording is a mixture between the acoustic bass and an electric semi-hollow body guitar (an Ibanez AF75D). For more of my music, including some acoustic stuff recorded with my EAB, go to (new window) http://jbpmusic.com.

As a recording musician, I like to have lots of different sound timbres and qualities in my “library” of guitars. Since I have a couple of nice electric basses, I began looking for a low-cost acoustic bass guitar some time ago. I played $2000 basses, and I played $99 basses at different guitar stores in our area. The top-end basses such as the Tacoma were wonderful, but were way out of my budget. By far, the Martin (wow! Solid sound, excellent build, bar-none timbre) and Tacoma Thunderchief (wow! If I could afford one of these, it would be THE one!) guitars were the best sounding and the best made. Either brand, in any model, would have been a great joy to own! I also played the Fender, Ibanez, and Kelly acoustic basses – but they were above my budget as well.
My issue, however, is that I wanted a bass that sounded great acoustically, and if it worked amplified too, then fine – and at a low price. This brought me to the Dean Playmate EAB. This bass, at $149 through sites like Purchasing and information link plus get Free Shipping at aZounds.com – you’ll love your bass. was an absolute (pleasant) surprise. I ended up purchasing the Dean as my bass acoustic member of my sound palette.

Quick Opinion: The Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass is a great all-around acoustic bass. It handles well, is of OK quality, and (most of all) sounds along the lines of the marvelous Tacoma acoustic basses. The primary impression of the Dean EAB Bass we bought (and have played for almost a year) is that it is a steal of a buy, and a very interesting-sounding bass.

Playability: The Dean EAB has a long-scale neck. It feels right at home after playing my Fender American Standard Jazz bass (although the Jazz is a much easier instrument to play, and has a better neck). The frets are surprisingly well set, dressed, and are of reasonable height. The light-brown/red fretboard wood is a little dry looking, but it is very easy to play. The body size is comfortable for a tall person with long arms (such as myself). My son feels comfortable with the guitar, but my daughter (“only” 5’10″) isn’t comfortable with the large and deep body. (Body size is not “good” or “bad”, the Dean is about the same size as the Tacoma… It is just not comfortable for smaller players.) The string height is surprisingly low, even after I raised the strings a bit to reduce fret buzz.
The Dean’s playability is actually a high 8 or low 9. Especially after a string-change.

Features The features of the Dean Playmate EAB are reasonable. The tuners are good and strong (sort of Gotoh-style), and keep tune very well. The rosette is traditional in look, and the saddle wood is of a very contemporary shape. The string-retention pegs are large and easy to use, and provide sufficient mass for reasonable sound (Why is it that I can’t find brass, bone, or Tusq retention pegs in the aftermarket? I’d buy some if I could find them.)
The satin finish is even, well-applied, and has very few “weird” spots. The neck’s satin finish is much smoother than the body’s finish, and is very comfortable in the hand. The Dean came with OK nickel or steel wrapped strings – they were a bit bright for me… I changed our Dean’s strings to a set of D’Addario Phosphor Bronze soft strings (the Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Bass Acoustic Strings sound really great, too. (UPDATE: The Ernie Ball Earthwoods are the ones I now use on my Dean EAB and my Ibanez acoustic basses. They’re awesome!)

Sound: This is where the Dean Playmate EAB sold me: Sound. The acoustic sound is extremely comparable to solid-wood guitars from a much higher price range! The bass frequencies are pretty tight, and the reproduction of the string flutter comes out nice and clear. The sound is pretty good when playing up the neck, especially when I switched from nickel to phosphor-bronze strings. When correctly mic-ed, the Dean sounds so very clear and wonderful – almost as rich as a grand piano with its top open.
The electronic sound (through the passive saddle pickup) is not up to snuff, though… see the “Wishes” section of this review.
The sound of the Dean was far better than any of the $300-$600 guitars I played.

Value: This is a $300 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The acoustic sound alone, plus the nicely (comparatively) finished neck are worth more than the price of admission alone. If I were to lose this one, I would most surely buy another, even if I sold enough music to buy a Martin or Tacoma.

Wishes: There are two major concerns, and one minor concerns. These concerns are apparent not after a quick use at the guitar store, but from recording more than 10 pieces of music with the Dean EAB…
The neck is slightly warped at about the third fret. After adjusting the string height (and the neck’s overall bow from shipment), it is apparent that the truss rods aren’t the most supportive in the world. The good news, however, is that the warp is slight, doesn’t affect my playing too much, and it has not changed in the nearly yearlong time in my guitar library. I find this particular warp to be acceptable for a guitar of this price. If this were a guitar that was more than $300, I would have looked for another.
The guitar’s sound through the electronics is not very good. Even with the tone turned all the way down, and the volume nearly all the way down, the bass sounds like telephone wires being pinged (think: Star Wars sounds). I had to run it through a tube preamp and several equalizations before I liked the electronic sound at all. As it is, I do not use it electrically – only acoustically. Since my Shure SM57 does a great job mic-ing the guitar, and I can get great, CLEAN bass sound with my MXL 990 with my BlueTube preamp, I have stopped trying to use the on-board electronics.
I love my Dean EAB. I really do. I hope I get to use it for many years to come – I just wish the finish was glossy. I also placed a pickguard on it to protect it for those rare times when I use a pick for clear attacks.

10 thoughts on “Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass Hands-on Review from someone who plays it live and on recordings

  1. i have a dean eab acoustic/electric bass but i cannot finda case for it at501/2″ long if you know where i can get a case please let me know

    • I purchased a Dean EAB hardshell for mine at an online retailer. When I bought my second-hand fretless Dean Playmate acoustic bass, I bought a less expensive Dean acoustic gig bag for it from zZounds.

      The Dean Playmate EAB is huge, so be sure to measure carefully you trying aftermarket bag or case.

  2. You reference your Ibanez acoustic bass. Which do you like better between it and the Dean? Also, would you recommend the fretless bass?

    • I love my EAB Dean – it has a warm and fundamental growl.

      The Ibanez is very special, it doesn’t have the wet cardboard sound so many other laminate basses do. The Ibanez is richer in the midst and cleaner on the highs.

      I bought a scratch’n’dent Dean fretless and put Fender flatwounds on it. Wow! It’s sweet and smooth and much louder than the Michael Kelly and others. It requires a good condenser mic for recording or concert.

  3. hi there. i’m in the market for an acoustic bass…so far the dean, the ibanez and washburn ab10 seem to be the winners. i’ve no desire to play it plugged in (i have two rickenbacker for that) but more for fun jams. what would you recommend?

    • Hi! Thank you for reading my work!

      For acoustic playing (not plugged in) the Dean and the basic Ibanez AEB5E acoustic bass are the nicest and loudest low-cost basses I’ve played. I’ve used both quite a bit and like them enough to use them on recordings. The Washburn is quite nice, but doesn’t have the growl on low end that the Dean has and isn’t quite as smooth on the high end as the Ibanez…

      In respect to the Dean, I spent the extra money to buy some Ernie Ball Earthwood phosphor bronze strings – the Ibanez has nice acoustic brass strings from the factory… In any event, even with a high end Martin or Tacoma, phosphor bronze strings really bring an acoustic bass to life when played au natural.

      Hope this helps! I love my Dean and my Ibanez and play them both quite often.

  4. I bought my bass not too long ago, but I can’t get the electric part to work. I can’t seem to find where it is I put the 9 Volt battery. Please help ^^’

    • Hello.

      My EAB is passive and doesn’t have a battery.

      The output is very weak and “vintage.”

      Your electro ics may have a fault or be disconnected.

      With one or two strings loose you can reach in the sound hole and feel the wiring at the jack and at the tone/volume controls. Take a look there.

      Otherwise you might have to take it to a guitar tech.

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